A/N: Thank you to beta extraordinaire mxpw, who made this entire story readable despite my numerous attempts at writing awful English. That's no easy task, guys, trust me. He also made the story itself way better *and* shared the fun and jokes with me, making the whole experience worth it. So thanks, Maximus!
Special thanks go to Catrogue and JoeltotheD as well. You know what you did!
This is the last chapter of this story, and likely the last chapter in the Alt-RS universe. It's been a fun fic to write and share. Thank you to every one of you that have read and reviewed. Enjoy!
Rogue Spy: The True Family Dinner
– 06:08 AM
"No, Carina," Sarah said. She placed the tray of cocktails on the coffee table. "We're not going to Miami tonight!"
"Vegas, then?" Carina sounded hopeful. She was unsurprisingly bored.
Sarah delivered Carina her Sex in the Dunes—the CATs could be much diversified in their choices of cocktails—as a proof of goodwill despite her refusal. "Nuh-uh."
"Just because happy hours are over—"
"It's five in the morning," Sarah told her.
"Six!" Devon said and hiccupped. He'd been doing that for at least twenty minutes or so. The heat wave had made for a nice night outside, but the morning dew had freshened up the air, and they'd just migrated inside again. "Ow."
"Plenty of time left to party!" Carina said.
Sarah had an idea of what kind of partying she wanted to do, and oddly enough, it did not involve Carina. She swapped a look with Ellie. Sarah was not alone in her thoughts. She gave Ellie the second Sex in the Dunes she'd prepared.
"Should we call Mike, then?" Zondra asked, and reached out for her cocktail.
Sarah inwardly rolled her eyes. Although it would keep the two CATs from boredom, the last thing they needed was for pizza boy to show up.
"You have his number?" Chuck said. "Of course, you have his number. And no."
– 06:20 AM
Chuck filled up the tray with stacked up cups. "You need a hand?"
"No, I'm good," Sarah said. She kissed his cheek before getting up, taking the tray with her.
"Pwned!" Carina said cheerfully.
Devon laughed. "Bro!"
"What?!" Chuck lamented. "I was distracted!"
"If you can't stand the heat, don't play with me," Sarah heard Carina say when she reached the kitchen. "You know exactly how hot I am, after all."
They were playing video games, of all things. After they had managed to talk Carina out of playing a movie and sticking a mustache on the TV, which purpose had only meant heavier drinking from Sarah's comprehension, they had opted for this safer activity. Sarah would have protested against it, but she didn't mind watching. It had been particularly entertaining to see the CATs crush Chuck and Devon the game before.
That reminded Sarah that Ellie and Zondra had gone to the Woodcomb apartment to look for…something. She didn't remember what; Sarah was tired. In any case, the two brunettes weren't back.
Sarah entered the bathroom and switched on the light. She left the door ajar and went directly for the sink. She longed to freshen up a bit. Fatigue was showing, and even if she wasn't boozed-up, she could use a little re-energization.
Even as she finished splashing water on her face, Sarah heard the sound of the door. "Hey, girl," Zondra said.
Sarah let out a sigh, while turning off the faucet. "Hey, what's up?" She looked at Zondra in the mirror and paused, taking in her appearance. Zondra had changed again. This time it was a fitted red t-shirt and another pair of shorts. It felt more like skimpy PJs than anything else.
She saw Zondra arch an eyebrow. "Just thought we could catch up," Zondra said. She walked to the sink, and leaned against it next to Sarah, her back to the mirror. "Carina and Chuck are playing Ellie and Devon."
It was like a radiator had just settled right next to her, Sarah thought. It was downright strange how Zondra could always do that. The temperature had increased just by her sheer presence. Soon, there would be steam on the mirror. "In the bathroom?" Sarah asked. She dried her face with a towel.
"Suits me," Zondra said with a shrug.
Before she realized it, Sarah was smiling back. Just because, apparently. Was it Zondra's perfume that had invaded the room too? How was it possible after changing clothes thrice and showering? It must be really good perfume.
"Did you enjoy yourself tonight?" Zondra asked. Her tone was quieter than it had ever been that night.
Sarah swallowed. "Sure. Did you?"
Zondra tilted her head to the side, and studied Sarah. She felt Zondra's eyes swiping her body and tried to restrain the blush she knew was inevitably coming. "I did," Zondra said.
"It's been a while since we've partied like that," Sarah said. She hoped if she could keep chatting for more than five minutes, Zondra's powers would fade a little, and she'd get out of this encounter without hurting any of her Bartowskis.
"I've missed it," Zondra said. Her voice sounded husky.
That was her usual MO. Just keep talking, Sarah. "Yeah," she said, "me too." She let out a chuckle. "Though, I don't know if our neighbors will feel the same."
Zondra crossed her arms over her chest in a casual manner. Sarah's eyes flickered down for the shortest of seconds, or two. Damn it! That was exactly what she wanted. "Probably not," Zondra said.
The brunette kept up a stream of chatter, and Sarah found herself nodding as though she was listening, but all she could feel was the haze that normally befell on her around Zondra. Sarah shifted, if she got closer maybe she could manage to pay attention to the words leaving Zondra's mouth. The other woman's lips continued moving; Sarah licked hers.
"…Ellie said…" Sarah heard at some point.
Sarah suddenly remembered what had saved her last December. Thinking of Carina and Chuck and what she was doing to them, indulging herself with Zondra. It hadn't felt right then, and it didn't feel right now. So, Sarah tried to focus on the people on the other side of the door.
Her boyfriend was playing video games in their living room. He was playing with their guests, amongst them was Ellie. Her Ellie.
Sarah took a step back. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, fighting down the urge to get closer again. She was so tired of that tonight. Maybe resistance was futile.
"Sarah?" Zondra asked.
No, it wasn't futile. She'd prepared for this. She wasn't going to let go now. "Yeah," she replied. "Uh, we probably should be getting back."
"What's the hurry?" Zondra asked. "They won't be lost without us, you know."
Sarah tried for a smile. "I know," she said. "Just… Look, no offense, but I don't think this is a good idea."
"No," Sarah said.
"Are you scared," Zondra said, "that something might happen?"
"Isn't that what you're looking for?"
"I told you," Zondra replied. "I came to catch up." Sarah didn't believe that for a second. She took another step back for good measure, and she could finally breathe again. "Now, if you're proposing—"
"Fine," Sarah said. She'd been the one who had invited Zondra tonight, after all. She could at least chat with her friend. "No, not that," she added at Zondra's questioning look. "Let's catch up. Tell me about Costa Rica. How come you were working with the DEA?"
Zondra's face fell slightly, but she recovered instantly. "I wasn't. Carina worked with the CIA on this one. She had history with the people we were targeting."
"Oh," Sarah said, settling against the wall. "Anything interesting?"
"Yeah, actually." Zondra explained how they had escaped a compound, and ended up paragliding to freedom. It sounded fun. Sarah had done that with Chuck not long ago. She told Zondra as much, and soon they were conversing like normal friends. Well, normal friends who were agents of the CIA.
When Ellie came looking for them, Sarah was sitting against the wall, Indian style, and Zondra had hopped up on the sink, letting her legs balance in the air.
"Everything okay in there?" Ellie asked. She glanced at Sarah worriedly.
Sarah nodded. "Yeah, we were just catching up."
– 06:54 AM
Sarah pondered not answering. Maybe Zondra would just give up and fall asleep, like Carina, Chuck, and Devon had.
"What is it?" Ellie asked from the seat adjacent Sarah.
"Give me Carina's purse, would you?" Zondra said.
"Can't you get it yourself?" Ellie asked her.
"Please? You're closer."
Ellie looked at Sarah incredulously. They were seated all the way back at the table. Zondra was on the couch. She was only a couple of steps from the table near the door, where Carina's purse was resting.
"Psst! You there?" Zondra asked.
"Geez," Sarah said as she stood up. "Next time we entertain inviting them again, remind me of this moment." She handed the purse to Zondra.
Zondra rummaged through it for a full minute, even though it was barely big enough to contain anything. Sarah's eyes bugged out when the CAT finally pulled out something: a black marker.
"What are you doing?"
Zondra grinned. "Fun's not over."
She started with Carina. By the time she had finished her masterpiece, saying, "Sorry, hon. You sleep, you lose," exhaustion and/or alcohol had altered Ellie and Sarah's sanity enough, that they enthusiastically encouraged Zondra to do the same to Chuck and Devon.
– 08:23 AM
"El," Sarah whispered, "your shirt."
"What is it?" Ellie looked down at herself. The UCLA sign was backward. "Oh."
Sarah giggled, even though she knew her own clothes were a little bit in disarray too.
"Crap," Ellie said. "I didn't..." She wasn't wearing anything underneath.
"Nobody's gonna see you here," Sarah said.
"It's plain daylight."
"We've been gone too long already," Sarah told her when Ellie eyed her apartment across the courtyard. "Come inside." She turned the knob.
Chuck and Devon were asleep in both armchairs. From their positions, they'd be sore in the morning—or later that day. Carina was sitting down on the couch, her feet up on the table in front of her. Her head was tilted to the side, in the direction of Zondra. The brunette was using the redhead's thighs as a pillow, and was lying on the rest of the couch.
Prior to Ellie and Sarah's stress relieving interlude, they'd been waiting for Zondra to finally flake out. Sarah had been one punch away from knocking the CAT unconscious. Ellie had dissuaded her, declaring it too extreme, but they did end up attempting to push her to sleep with alcohol. Sarah had eventually dozed off herself in the process, until Ellie had nudged her into semi-consciousness. "Wanna fool around?" she'd asked. It had propelled Sarah into full awareness.
The others had all drifted slightly in their slumber—in Carina's case, it gave a better view of her cleavage—since Ellie and Sarah had left them to sneak out, but it looked like none of them had come around during their absence.
After closing the door as carefully as she had opened it, Sarah grabbed Ellie's elbow to indicate her to move. They tiptoed behind the couch. "Go ahead," Sarah said, gesturing to Ellie to take care of her t-shirt. "Come on, hurry."
Ellie's face scrunched and she spun around to face the kitchen, before taking off her shirt.
Sarah suppressed a laugh at Ellie's rushed and uncoordinated movements. "I've seen you without a shirt before, you know."
Ellie turned her shirt outside in. "And if you want to see it again, we can't afford mistakes like this."
It took a few seconds for the words to register. Ellie's skin was always an enthralling sight, especially with the way she tussled with her t-shirt. Luckily, Sarah was the reason Ellie's shirt had been upside-down, so she was relaxed enough to be content in simply watching. "What? Uh…yeah."
Ellie's head pushed through the collar. "You're kidding, right?" she said, watching Sarah ogle her.
"You want me to pull off my shirt and see how you'd do?" Sarah asked.
"Point," Ellie said, once both arms had passed through the sleeves. She pulled on the hem of her shirt. "How do I look?"
Sarah glanced at the living room, checking that everybody was still sound asleep. "You look fantastic," she said, meandering into Ellie's personal space. After stealing a too short kiss, she added, "Like you always do."
Ellie beamed. "I bet you say that to all your secret girlfriends," she teased, but she didn't move away. If anything, she shifted closer.
Sarah stuck out her tongue at her. She didn't have time to close her mouth back, before Ellie's lips crashed into hers. Sarah let out a silent—she hoped it was silent—moan, already regretting that they had had to rush tonight's intermission. The kiss ceased naturally, and both sighed slightly, knowing they'd already gambled enough for one day. Each of them recovered their wandering hands inside the other's shirt.
Sarah gave a last peck to Ellie's cheek, before separating. They tiptoed back to the living room. Sarah wanted to tell Ellie she really didn't have to make such exaggerated movements to be quiet, but she figured it wasn't the time.
"Devon," Ellie whispered louder than she'd been before, while shaking him. "Babe, wake up."
"Time to sleep," she told him. "In our bed."
Devon yawned and ran a hand across his face. "Right," he said, the sound raw from losing his voice.
Sarah shook Chuck awake the same way, and brushed a hand through his hair. The curls were ruffled from the nap and not drying correctly.
"What time is it?" he asked in a feeble tone.
Devon had risen to his feet. He made the zombie look work. One of his arms was wrapped around his wife's shoulders, both as a habit and for support. "Need help?" Ellie asked. Sarah declined the offer and told them that they could go. "Breakfast at our place tomorrow," Ellie said as they wished each other good night.
Chuck and Sarah found themselves in front of the two leggy party monsters.
"Should we really poke the bears?" Chuck asked.
"I don't know if I should risk my life with these two deadly government agents. Not when they're blitzed," Chuck said. "I already risk major injury every time I wake you up too brusquely and we live together."
"Hey, I never actually hurt you," Sarah defended.
"And I'd take that chance with you every other day," he said, kissing her temple. "I'm not sure my friendship with the CATs is quite there yet." He yawned.
"You can go to bed," Sarah said. "I'll take care of it." Chuck raised his eyebrows in a "you sure?" question. "I'll be fine," she assured him. "Go."
Chuck left, and Sarah took a second of quiet to peer around the room. The place looked even more trashed in the light of day, without movement and sound.
Carina stirred and made a noise through her nose that Sarah remembered well. She would be waking up soon, would wake Zondra up in turn, and—Sarah preferred not to think about that. She had avoided it all night long. Only a few hours left, she told herself.
"Carina," Sarah called, "Zondra." She didn't touch them. One grappling and she could find herself tangled between her two not-so-dressed exes on her couch: not a good idea. "Come on, sleepy heads."
Zondra cracked one eye open, and wrinkled her face, annoyed. "Tell me you changed your mind."
Sarah laughed. "Nope."
Zondra emitted a disgusted sound. She sat down and took one of Carina's hands. "Hey, fire head."
The smiling, anticipating expression that had grown on Carina's face before she opened her eyes, changed to a mix of question and excitement.
Sarah didn't acknowledge it. Instead, she trudged to the table next to the door. "The guest room's down the hall," she said, tossing her the key. "You're welcome to make yourself at home, but the living room's off limits." Both women lifted their chins at that. "Don't think I'll hesitate to ruin the moment for you. Good night."
Sarah walked to the bathroom without looking back. She brushed her teeth and slipped into bed.
"We made it," Chuck murmured, when she cuddled against him.
Sarah missed having pillow moments like this with Ellie, but that was one of the inherent sacrifices of their situation. She took comfort in knowing Chuck and Devon would be having a boys-only camping trip soon, leaving the girls to themselves for the weekend.
"Almost," she replied, and burrowed her face deeper into his neck. His warmth and smell quickly made the sleeping cloud fall upon her. "They're still here."
As if on cue, a muted thud came from the other side of the wall. Sarah would have grumbled, but she was just glad they had made it to the guest room. Chuck wasn't bothered either, as she felt a faint chuckle rumble through his chest.
"We almost made it," was the last thing she remembered hearing.
– 11:49 AM
Chuck panted. "I think I pulled one of my back muscles again."
"But you're not sorry," Chuck finished.
Sarah let out a chuckle and smacked her lips sprightly. "I'll make it better in the shower, come on."
Chuck whined. "Why do we even have to get up? I could stand to stay in bed for a few more hours."
"I was thinking we could slack off at the beach this afternoon. Awesome and Ellie have the day off."
Chuck eyed her in suspicion. "The beach, uh?"
Sarah didn't acknowledge his insinuation. "Lying on the sand, enjoying the sun and water, and," she paused, "no galling layers of clothing getting in the way."
Chuck laughed. He knew how much she hated to hide her gorgeous body when unnecessary. He agreed that it was criminal—most of the time. (He also said that he could do without encouraging people to flirt with her.) "That does sound nice," he said. "And if we get thirsty for a cocktail, you wouldn't mind it either."
"I hadn't thought of it," Sarah said, not backing away from feigning innocence, "but now that you've mentioned it, that's a good point. Let's go."
"Ugh," Chuck whined again when Sarah took the covers off him to hurry him up. "We wouldn't be late if..." He was silenced by Sarah's glare. "I'm just saying, as willing a participant as I was—"
"Very willing, it seemed."
"—it wasn't my idea. You woke me up."
"Fine, stay," Sarah said, hopping off the bed. She didn't bother putting anything on. "Take care of that back muscle by yourself, and I'll tell the others you were too lazy to get up." She was going to ask him how long she thought it would take Carina to burst through the door, but Chuck was already on her heels.
"What the frak?" Chuck said when he saw his reflection in the mirror.
– 12:28 AM
Sarah passed the kitchen on her way out. If she had to be back in there anytime this year, it would be too soon. She felt as though she had spent a good portion of her time behind the counter last night, organizing and tidying things up. It had also proved to be a great hideaway when events had been getting fiery.
Chuck jogged to catch up to her, and grasped one of Sarah's hands. "Are the CATs up?"
"We probably woke them up," he said. "We got pretty loud."
"You certainly did," she said. He hadn't actually been louder than her, but Sarah always marveled at his capacity to handle Carina's innuendos, but not his girlfriend's teasing. There wasn't any reason to be embarrassed about their healthy sex life. And indeed, Chuck's cheeks reddened.
The blush was still plain on Chuck's face when they reached Casa Woodcomb, and it must have prompted Casey's way of greeting for he said, snickering as Devon let them in, "Looks like Bartowski's already knifed that donut."
What Casey had forgotten was that, as he looked up, he displayed the skin between his nose and mouth—and the faded mark of a drawn mustache. The same as Chuck and Devon were sporting. (Carina's had inexplicably disappeared.)
Chuck and Sarah came to a halt, and stared at Casey. Carina and Zondra's eyes sparkled with exaltation. Alex hid her smile behind one of her palms. Morgan coughed. Casey ground his teeth. No comments were made, but it wasn't without difficulty.
The food was glorious, especially the fruit-juice sweetened corn flakes Ellie found at Wholefoods, and although the fatigue was evident among most of them, laughter and general joyfulness were predominant.
Sarah wondered where the new clothes the CATs were wearing came from; she didn't recognize any of them. She might be better off not knowing, so she didn't inquire on the subject. They looked fresh and rested, no doubt ready to reprise the partying where they'd left off if anybody tempted them.
No one was insane enough to do so during breakfast. Preventive measure number 9: No further plans.
– 13:23 AM
"Oh, wait!" Chuck said. "I have something for you." He jogged across the room, and disappeared into the hallway.
Sarah cast a look to Carina. She still wasn't sure on what foot they were standing. The party had gone well, but now the festivities were over and the guests were sober. They stayed motionless for a few seconds, assessing each other in front of the open door of Chuck and Sarah's apartment.
On the other side of the complex, Zondra was distributing hugs. Sarah smiled when the embrace with Devon lasted longer than with the others, but they seemed to have found a common ground. Would Carina and Sarah manage to do the same?
The redhead changed the hold on her helmet from one hand to the other, and spoke up when it was Ellie's turn to exchange a parting hug. "Do you really think this is going to work?" Sarah felt her entire being go rigid. She stopped breathing. Carina laughed. "I'm not blind, you know."
Sarah looked at Carina warily, before twisting her head in direction of the absentee Chuck without meaning to. In preparation for the dinner, Sarah had tried to tell herself that she should look at it as an opportunity. If she could survive this, she could survive anything. She'd have nothing to worry about. She'd resist inhuman temptation, and yet… Was that it? Had what they had feared all along happened and they were discovered? Would their life plan be ruined and the happiness she and Ellie, and by extension Chuck and Devon, were finally experiencing ruined along with it?
"Relax," Carina said, "I'm not going to tell him."
Sarah wondered if she should deny it all, but it might just exacerbate the animosity Carina had felt toward Sarah since her vanishing act. So she decided to take a chance. Carina and she had been friends, they had cared for each other, Sarah still did, and she hoped Carina did too. "Why not?" she asked.
"He's happy," Carina said. Sarah arched an eyebrow, despite herself. Get a grip on yourself, Walker. Don't mess this up. "Will he stay that way, though," Carina added. She hadn't commented on Sarah's reaction to her show of caring, but Carina was serious and she showed as much in her intonation. "That's the important part."
"I don't want to hurt him," Sarah said.
"Why do this then?" Carina asked. "If he finds out, you'll loose him for good this time."
"Complicated?" Carina smiled, almost sadly. "It always is with you, isn't it?" Her words were harsher than the tone she used—it wasn't reproachful, but a mere statement. It stung all the same.
"I know," Sarah said and pinched her nose. It was an unusual gesture for her. She stopped. "I know it seems that way. And I know you don't have any reason to believe me, but things are different now."
Carina glanced back outside. "I can't deny that it does look different," she said.
Sarah was secretly seeing someone else behind Chuck's back. It was true that she had done that before. But it was different. Chuck and Ellie were the real thing for Sarah. She wasn't playing around. "Carina…"
"No, I mean it," Carina said. "I wasn't—look, like I said, he's happy. You all seem to be, honestly. And I'm not exactly well placed to give anybody relationship advice, nor do I care to. So as long as you're sure…" She trailed off, waiting for Sarah to respond.
"I am," Sarah said with confidence.
"Then, it's none of my business."
"So," Sarah said, "we're good?"
Carina laughed again. "Yes, we're good." Hearing Chuck walking back into the room, she added, "As long as he stays happy." Despite the whisper, it was a clear warning from the redhead. What Chuck doesn't know can't hurt him. So Carina won't tell him, but Sarah better not screw up.
"Here," Chuck said when he reached them, extending what looked like a DVD box to Carina. Or maybe it was a video game?
"Ugh," Carina said, taking the box with her free hand. She shook her head fondly. "You're not turning me into a nerd, Curly."
"You're gonna love it!" Chuck said.
"Fine, fine," Carina said, starting to walk outside to join the others. Chuck and Sarah followed her. "I'll check it out."
"Well, Walker," Zondra told her when she got within ear shot, "it was fun, seeing you."
"You too," Sarah replied and gave her hug. "You guys are going back to D.C.?"
"Tomorrow morning," Zondra said. She grimaced and touched her jaw. "Damn, I must have hit something last night." Sarah traded a glance with an all but innocent looking Ellie. "Anyway, we're stopping by Vegas first."
Sarah chuckled. "Good call."
The group moved outside the complex. Zondra climb on her bike, waiting for Carina, who was still saying her goodbyes. Everybody hid their smirks when Casey gave her a handshake. When she got to Sarah, they stared at each other for a few seconds. Sarah had the feeling that they were being watched closely, and that everyone took a deep breath when Carina threw her arm around Sarah.
"Take care, Walker," she said. "I'll call you so we can do this again."
Sarah nodded, and said goodbye to her ex-partners, wishing them luck in Vegas. They didn't need it. Gambling wouldn't be a priority, Sarah knew by experience. Chuck came to hug Sarah from behind, and they all watched the CATs ride away in silence—maybe, making sure that they were gone. Sarah noted that she'd been right to think that Carina in a dress on that bike made for an interesting view.
"Well, we should go, too," Morgan said. "We're late."
"You made plans for the afternoon?" Ellie asked.
"My friend Lydia's in town," Alex said. She checked her watch. "And she must already be waiting for us. It's never good to leave her alone for too long."
"Casey, you're leaving too?" Chuck asked when the NSA agent trudged to his Crown Vic. "Don't tell me you got a call from Beckman?"
"Nah," Casey said. "I'm going to Castle and spend some quality time with Betty."
Chuck kissed Sarah's temple as he, Devon, Ellie, and Sarah were left alone. "So, you and Carina buried the hatchet?" he asked.
"Mhmm," Sarah said.
The four survivors found themselves settling back around the Woodcomb dinner table.
"I'm spent!" Devon said. "I mean, I was warned, but man, those two really are party animals!"
Chuck laughed. "That they are."
"We made it, though," Ellie said. She humored Devon by exchanging a high five, before glancing at Sarah.
Sarah grinned. "We did."
"Let's not do that again too soon, though, right?" Devon said.
Nods were exchanged.
"So, what do you guys want to do?" Ellie asked. Sarah shared another look with her, and they apparently had the same idea, but it wouldn't be for another handful of hours. Unless…
"I was thinking about going to the beach this afternoon," Sarah said. "What do you think? It should be nice with this heat wave around."
The three other people in the room suddenly looked at each other, perplexed.
"Um, honey," Chuck said. "What heat wave?"